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Selling ice to the Eskimos

Selling ice to the Eskimos

There is a classic scene in the Simpsons movie when Homer and his family—arriving in Alaska to hide out from the EPA after Homer slimes Springfield by dumping a container of pig dung into the local lake—pull up at a toll booth and immediately are handed a $1,000 share of Alaskan oil revenue. The scene typifies the stereotype of Alaska as a state that sold its environmental soul to the oil industry in exchange for some ready cash. This stereotype recently has been reinforced by the renewed debate about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a move which apparently would be welcomed by Alaska’s representatives in Washington. A quick glance at some news coming from the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., however, makes it clear that this perception is not necessarily reality. Here’s a sampling of the latest announcements from AEDC: Alternative energy heats up Alaska ”The Alaska legislature recently created a $250 million, five-year renewable energy program. The Renewable Energy Alaska Project ranks the state second behind California among 16 states and the District of Columbia that put money toward renewable energy, said Chris Rose, executive director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project. The program’s goal is to offset fossil fuel used for power generation and includes a combination of wind power, hydro, biomass and geothermal energy projects. Additionally, state legislators approved $25 million to fund submarine cables that would connect a 50-megawatt wind power project on Fire Island, in Cook Inlet just off the shore of Anchorage’s airport. Developers of the Fire Island wind project say it can be doubled to 100 megawatts. The project could also provide a foundation for other wind projects that the developers are considering in the state’s Railbelt area.” Anchorage energy projects cut costs ”The Municipality of Anchorage is stimulating new economic development by reducing waste and using recyclable commodities. Over the past two years, the city has saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars while reducing Anchorage’s contribution to global climate change. The city appointed a renewable resources coordinator and has implemented initiatives to replace Anchorage street lights with energy-saving, long-lasting LED (light-emitting diode) and induction lighting — saving an initial estimated $3 million in energy costs. Other initiatives include retrofitting City Hall for energy efficiency; installing a methane gas recovery system at the city landfill; and, encouraging new buildings to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The city is working with local architects and developers to introduce an ordinance making all city-owned buildings LEED certified, with development […]


New Camrys equipped with cable TV, dirty dishes

New Camrys equipped with cable TV, dirty dishes

Does all the talk about the coming wave of electric cars have you thinking about extension cords? Or, to be more specific, do you toss and turn at night and wonder how you are going to maneuver the lawn mower around the extension cord while your new electric car is charging itself on the driveway? Not to worry. The great minds at Toyota already have given a lot of thought to these concerns, and they have a solution: The world’s largest automaker wants to build your next house. According to a report in today’s Wall Street Journal, the people who brought us Camry and Corolla are ramping up their home construction business, known as ToyotaHome. Toyota’s home-building unit actually has been in business since 1975, providing a cost-efficient steel-frame alternative to the traditional wooden house in Japan, which on average gets torn down and rebuilt every 30 years or so. ToyotaHome currently accounts for less than 1% of Toyota’s $262 billion in annual sales, but the Japanese auto giant believes the impending era of the electric car will give it an opportunity to dramatically expand its home-building activities. Toyota and General Motors both are planning to launch gas-electric hybrid vehicles in 2010, equipped with potent lithium batteries. ToyotaHome’s engineers are busy designing a new version of their standard offering specifically configured to accommodate the special needs of an electric vehicle. For example, the company is testing an electricity-monitoring system for its houses that will charge the electric car during off-peak hours to keep utility bills down. According to the Journal report, the electric car battery also will be deployed as a backup electric power source for the house, keeping the lights on during a blackout. It certainly seems like our friends at Toyota have thought of everything. Everything, that is, except the average American teenager. Picture this: It’s a hot summer night in 2015 in Anytown, U.S. A. The temperature has been 115 degrees every night this week (yes, global warming turned out to be real). Mom and Dad are sitting comfortably in the air-conditioned living room of their new three-bedroom, split-level ToyotaHome. One wall of the living room is covered by a 1-inch-thick Ultra High Definition Liquid Plasma Nano-pixel Holographic television. Mom and Dad are watching the latest episode of American Idol Gladiators. They are preparing to give the screen a voice command which will cast their vote for two of the five singing contestants. The two winners will engage in a three-dimensional laser-sword fight that will be beamed […]


Ahnold terminates the competition at BIO

Ahnold terminates the competition at BIO

About two dozen state economic development programs were showcased at last week’s BIO conference in San Diego, but for at least one afternoon the show floor belonged to a megastar from the host state. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took center stage at the huge international biotech meeting, first during a laugh-laden keynote address and then at a walk-through and press conference in the California booth. In his keynote, the Governator bragged about California’s impressive leadership in biotech, including 3,000 companies generating more than $73 billion in revenue and a $3 billion initiative to fund stem cell research. ”And that’s without counting the sales of botox to Joan Rivers,” Arnold quipped, flashing a large grin that strangely did not produce any wrinkles on his famous visage. You have to admire a guy—known throughout the world for getting his face blown off by a shotgun, being dipped in a vat of molten metal, and then emerging brand-new in the sequel—making fun of plastic surgery. Arnold also revealed a heretofore secret prowess for osmosis. ”This room is sizzling with brain power and creativity,” he said. ”I will walk out of here with a 10% increase in my IQ just for being here.” Schwarzenegger was smart enough to couple his Hollywood sizzle with plenty of substance. He was accompanied at BIO by Robert Klein, chairman of the state-funded California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Tony Clement, Canada’s Minister of Health. At a press conference in the California booth, the trio announced a three-year, $100 million agreement between California and Canada to collaborate on stem cell research. Hewing to his reputation as a bridge-building political leader who gets things done, Arnold deftly avoided comparing California’s bold leadership in stem cell research to the continuing failure of the federal government to allocate any funds for such research, which may unlock treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, among other deadly ailments. He diplomatically pronounced that ”no one state or nation should do this alone.” Schwarzenegger was far less diplomatic during a brief Q&A with the press when asked about President Bush’s demand that Congress immediately authorize offshore drilling for oil on the California coast. ”They have done nothing in Washington about an energy policy for 10 years and now they want to drill here,” he declared. ”It is not going to happen.” For a brief moment, we envisioned the 43rd president looking up from his desk at Arnold and asking, with a sheepish grin on his face, ”Hey Terminator dude, mind if we mess up your coastal waters […]


Business Aviation Rapidly Expands in the United States

Business Aviation Rapidly Expands in the United States

Today, we open our blog to Mr. Frederick Metz Shepperd of Switzerland-based Quadral Group (www.quadralgroup.com). Frederick is also a member of Business Facilities’ Editorial Advisory Board. If I told you there was a North American-based industry that is undertaking facilities expansions of 50% to increase production, has delivery times for products extending into 2012 and 2013, and is receiving bonuses of $10 million for earlier delivery times, you would probably think I was crazy. Yet this is all happening right now, in the midst of the doom and gloom on Wall Street. Smaller airports are finding new roles as economic drivers as European companies look for new production facilities and expand existing ones. Evidence of this trend was abundant at the European Business Aviation Association’s recent annual convention in Geneva, Switzerland, attended by more than 14,000 industry executives. Here are some of the players and some of the highlights: Embraer announced a new assembly facility for its Phenom jet at Melbourne International Airport in Florida. The total investment is $50 million, and the 150,000-square-foot-facility will employ 200 workers and will be completed by 2011. Outsourcing done by Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas is helping to grow suppliers like Parker Aerospace and Rockwell Collins, to name a few. Despite some outsourcing, Cessna plans to add 1,000 workers at its Kansas plant, on top of the 1,500 hired within the last 12 months. Bombardier, maker of Learjets in Georgia, in addition to the Challenger spacecraft and other business jets built near Montreal, announced a backlog of 30 months, representing the production of 2,571 new aircraft worth $63 billion. Honda Jet, based in the southeast United States, is in the final approval stages for European deliveries. Charter companies based in North America and abroad are racing to expand. For example, XOJet in California recently received $2.4 billion in financing to fund its global growth. Growth is affecting all sorts of support industries and economic sectors related to business aviation. And what about all the suppliers to these companies? They are growing and moving too! Take a closer look at that airport on the outskirts of a city. It may have the potential to be its own economic stimulus. Those big empty hangars? They can be new production centers for business aviation. Runway too short? Add some concrete and you may very well add some jobs. It is the closest thing you can get to jobs dropping from the sky.


Not the Sheriff of Nottingham

Not the Sheriff of Nottingham

Until recently, everyone in the current fiscal debacle has been playing their parts in a predictable manner. Top banking execs who presided over multi-billion-dollar losses have parachuted out of the wreckage of their financial institutions clutching hideous ”retirement” bonuses without a shred of shame. Federal lawmakers who blissfully deregulated the banking industry and permitted it to morph into a Jupiter-sized Three Card Monte scam have expressed outrage over the scope of the disaster and sympathy for the victims, but have done virtually nothing to mitigate the damage or to prevent it from happening again. TV talking heads have monotonously droned about the latest surge in foreclosures and the bloodless announcements of staggering losses reported by international banking giants. These depressing fiscal bulletins usually are sandwiched between breathless coverage of the latest American Idol casualty and speculation about whether Brad and Angelina will stay together long enough to name their twins. Nameless bewildered homeowners have publicly expressed shock at the ”unfairness” of losing a $2 million property for which they had put down $20,000 and signed a mortgage with interest rates that jumped from 5% to 500% after 24 months. Washed-up celebrities like Ed McMahon and Evander Holyfield get 15 minutes of crocodile tears from Larry King over the impending loss of their 50-acre mansions. And, in cities and towns across the county, local law enforcement officers are executing court orders to seize foreclosed properties and auction them off. Except, that is, in Philadelphia, because Sheriff John Green stood up in court and said ”no.” According to a report in today’s Wall Street Journal, Sheriff Green, who has worn a badge for 37 years, astounded the legal and financial movers-and-shakers in Philly when he refused to hold court-ordered foreclosure auctions, telling the judge he no longer has the stomach to take houses away from his friends and neighbors. Without the sheriff and his 241-person department on board to enforce the court’s action, foreclosures in Philadelphia ground to a halt. Then something interesting happened: — The City Council opened a legal umbrella over the sheriff’s unilateral (and illegal) action by unanimously enacting a moratorium on foreclosures. — The judge who ordered the auctions asked civic leaders, lenders’ attorneys and housing advocates to form a committee to determine which homeowners deserved a delay, aid through government programs, or at least a ”graceful exit” from their house. The committee developed a streamlined process to make loans more affordable for delinquent homeowners who still live in their houses. — Homeowners were offered free lawyers for […]


The future arrives on 52nd street

The future arrives on 52nd street

We were standing on Sixth Avenue in the middle of Manhattan the other day, trying to hail a cab. The traffic was bumper-to-bumper and barely moving, and the cabs all had “off-duty” signs lit up, their drivers chattering on cell phones as they inched along. We were about to give up and join the hordes on the sidewalk for a 20-block hike, when a pedicab rolled up next to us. The man pedaling the bicycle motioned to an open, raised divan he was pulling and urged us to get in. He told us he would take us to 52nd street for $12. We stepped up into this bizarre chariot and sat on the mini-loveseat, which was surprisingly comfortable. Our “engine” pumped his legs, and we began a quiet, serene roll up Sixth Avenue. Soon we were rolling briskly past all of the cars alongside us, who seemed like they were barely moving at all. Cab drivers gave us dirty looks. Pedestrians gawked in disbelief with what seemed like wonderment laced with jealously etched in their faces. We sat high above the street, refreshed by a mild breeze, admiring the chiseled cornices at the tops of the old buildings and the open sky. With no meter to monitor and no driver to distract us with a phone call to his cousin in Yemen, our thoughts soon drifted. We thought about the recent announcement from OPEC that it is powerless to stop the rising price of oil, now nearing $140 per barrel. We thought about the news report which told us that the U.S. military, which consumes 340,000 barrels of oil each day, is sending up a B-1 stealth bomber filled with synthetic fuel on a test flight to see if it is possible to break the sound barrier using the fake stuff. We thought about the TV interview with a guy from Japan Airlines, who said the carrier was switching to lighter plastic spoons in a desperate effort to save fuel on its jets. Another aircraft exec told the TV reporter that his company would soon start charging passengers $15 for each piece of checked luggage. We thought about the gas station owner in Oklahoma, who was trying to adjust the price on his pumps to $4.06 per gallon only to discover that the pricing dials in the pump had not been built to go higher than $3.99. A stretch limousine loomed ahead to our right. It seemed to be about 40 feet long. As we easily rolled passed, we could […]


The Importance of Taking the “LEED”

The Importance of Taking the “LEED”

This summer, Business Facilities is devoting a lot of editorial coverage to businesses going green; our June cover story will look at location trends among green-technology companies. Also, our July annual rankings report will highlight the 20 greenest states in America based on comprehensive analysis of nine criteria, one of which is number of LEED-certified buildings by state. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building certification program is a feature-oriented rating system that awards buildings points for satisfying specified green building criteria. On May 15, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) testified before Congress about the importance of LEED-certified projects. “Buildings are the single largest contributor to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, accounting for 39% of emissions in the U.S. Of those buildings, school buildings represent the largest construction sector in the country and 20% of America goes to school every day,” says Michelle Moore, senior VP, Policy and Public Affairs for USGBC. “It’s fundamental to promote the design and construction of green schools, which play a tremendous role in bettering the health and performance of our students and children. Every new building coming out of the ground today should built green and every existing building should be retrofitted, whether it is an office building, a school, or your own home. Buildings offer an immediate, measurable solution for mitigating climate change, and we don’t have time to wait.” Currently, 12 federal agencies or departments, 28 states, more than 120 local governments, 12 public school jurisdictions, and 36 higher education institutions have made policy commitments to use or encourage LEED ratings. Many states even offer incentives to businesses looking to go green.


Don’t read this before you eat lunch!

Don’t read this before you eat lunch!

For as long as we can remember, tourists heading for Mexico have been warned: ”Don’t drink the water!” Well, if you’re planning to fill up a couple of jugs with tap water in Los Angeles or San Diego before you head to Tijuana, you might want to think twice. According to a report in today’s Wall Street Journal, L.A. is poised to announce plans to recycle 4.9 billion gallons of treated wastewater to ”drinking standards” by 2019. A number of other major metropolitan areas facing water shortages are moving in the same direction: San Diego recently approved a pilot project to pump treated wastewater into its local reservoir, and Miami-Dade County, Florida, is planning a system that will pump 23 million gallons of recycled wastewater into an aquifer that will feed wells in the area. ”Treated wastewater” is a polite way of saying ”sewage.” This euphemism probably was coined by the same guy who came up with ”certified pre-owned vehicle” to describe a used car with 98,000 miles on the odometer and cigarette burns on the front seat, currently being offered by your local dealer for the highly discounted price of $12,500 (the warranty expires as soon as you pull off the lot). Wastewater recycling initiatives have been put forward periodically in recent years, as major population centers have continued to expand while water resources remain, well, stagnant. These projects usually have been pushed off the agenda by what the Journal calls ”the yuck factor”—critics labeled them ”toilet to tap” proposals. Not any more. The rate at which demand is outpacing supply apparently has hit a tipping point that renders the ”yuck factor” irrelevant. Besides, even if ultra-hygienic types in L.A. and San Diego manage to pull together a movement to beat back the sewage recycling plans, they still will be ingesting treated wastewater: 400 million gallons of it is discharged into the Colorado River every day. Of course, Angelenos always will have the option of jumping into their corn-powered vehicles and taking a four-hour excursion on the freeway to purchase a month’s supply of bottled water at $5 per gallon jug. Try not to notice the friendly convenience store clerk filling the jugs with a hose behind the Quik-Chek.


China’s Road-building Investment in Congo

China’s Road-building Investment in Congo

In developed nations, access to major roadways is taken for granted. We have six-lane dual carriageways, networks of precisely paved arteries cutting in and out of big cities, and transcontinental highways stretching for thousands of miles. Even those shady side streets and pot-holed back alleys are there when you need them–in my case, when I’m lost (regularly) and need to make a K-turn. But a recent article in The Washington Post details the lack of highway infrastructure in a growing, but largely undeveloped country, Congo (formerly Zaire). However, a mutually (though perhaps not equally) beneficial road-building deal between the Congolese government and China will bring new transportation opportunities to mining cities in the north and south of Congo, connecting them to western ports. The Chinese, in return, will create its own lucrative inroad into the African nation’s rich mining industry. While this business agreement may seem a world away to economic developers who can proudly tout and sell their extensive and upgraded transportation routes, the anecdotal information in the Post’s article is also eye-opening. It details how the grading and smoothening of one, 30-mile dirt road leading to the village of Kilongo has brought beer, electronics, and prostitutes, to name a few, um, “goods” to the once-isolated community. Check out the full story for a good read. Here’s one fascinating stat: “Congo, a country the size of Western Europe, with vast natural resources, has less than 3,000 miles of paved road. Virginia, by comparison, has about 70,000 miles.”


Emerald City

Emerald City

They broke ground earlier this year for the headquarters of Masdar City, which according to its sponsors will be ”the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city fully powered by renewable energy.” Masdar City is the $22 billion showpiece of Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven United Arab Emirates. It will be constructed over seven phases and is due to be completed by 2016. The headquarters building is the first phase, slated to be finished by 2010. Its builders say it will be the world’s first large-scale, mixed-use positive energy building, producing more energy than it consumes. The complex will utilize sustainable materials and feature integrated wind turbines, outdoor air quality monitors and one of the world’s largest building-integrated solar energy arrays. Masdar’s headquarters is being designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture of Chicago, which was selected by a global jury of seven world-reknowned design and urban planning experts from a field of 159 competitors. The Chicago firm emerged from 15 finalists who had met the sustainability criteria set for the Masdar project, including water and wastewater efficiency, indoor environmental quality, zero carbon emission, and carbon footprint reduction. This is an impressive project, and Abu Dhabi deserves a tip of the hat for doing its part in the sustainable development movement. But if the Emirate is going to boast about its plans to reduce the size of its carbon footprint, we think it would be useful to measure the foot: — Abu Dhabi currently sits on 9.5 percent of global crude oil proven reserves, about 98 billion barrels. — Abu Dhabi is the world’s third largest oil exporter, behind only Saudi Arabia and Russia. — Abu Dhabi is earning approximately $400 million per day in oil and gas revenues. It is surging ahead with a $20 billion program—roughly the amount it has earmarked for Masdar City—to expand its crude oil production capacity from a current level of 2.8 million barrels-a-day to up to 4 million barrels-a-day by 2015. Extra-credit quiz question: What is going to have a bigger impact on Abu Dhabi’s carbon footprint during the next seven years, Masdar City or a 40% increase in crude oil production? When the Masdar headquarters opens in 2010, no doubt the global trade press will be invited for a VIP tour. We’re going to wait until the landscaping on the project is completed. We even have a few ”decorating” tips, which we now offer free of charge to the Emirate: No zero-carbon city is complete without a synthetic North Pole […]